Guest Blogger Conan McNamara: The Bothy Band – Old Hag You Have Killed Me

13 Jul

Another guest who I have never met in person, Conan has been following along with my ramblings from the start via my parallel Geeklist at BoardGameGeek . . .

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I prefer my Celtic music simple, unembellished.  A slow reel from the strings of a capable fiddler is powerfully moving, distilling an emotional energy in me that’s unrivaled within my musical canon.  Then, within a moment, the fiddle picks up a jig and we’re spinning ‘round the room, boots beating out the rhythm, locking elbows, and embracing strangers.

On this album The Bothy Band give it to you both ways, leading off with the latter.  The first three songs are knockouts.  Two raucous reels sandwiching an impeccably harmonized a capella track.  Fiddles, whistle, and pipes take turns leading the melodies; each getting its solo moments, allowing me to savor the tune and the instrument’s tone.  The playing is impeccable, and the arrangements emphasize the tunes without embellishing them.

Eventually the album treads into musical territory that I enjoy less.  The Celtic equivalent of the adult contemporary ballad.  This record is nearly forty years old, but it might as well be a new release.  Even today the genre-standard seems to be including an ethereal ballad, hauntingly sung, with dramatic string arrangements.  It feels too calculated, too dreamy, and in the end too empty.  In trying to create ambiance, it loses the edge and energy that truly makes a song engaging The Bothy Band do offer redemption with a simple and beautiful female vocal track on the second half of the album.

Actually, this is the most diverse Celtic album I’ve heard.  So much musical ground is covered, that while I may rant about the ballads I have yet to skip a track on any of my dozen listens.  The Bothy Band provide a tour of trad music, and each song feels like it’s earned its place.  The pretenseless delivery of most songs give fresh context to the more fanciful tracks, which, in turn, help the jigs feel a bit more rambunctious.  The Bothy Band embrace a broad spectrum of traditional Irish music, and I think this album is certainly worth hearing before you die.

Also, the album gets one million bonus points for having the coolest title ever.

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Conan is a middle school teacher in Brunswick, Maine.  He lives with his wife and a conglomeration of pets representing several classes of chordates.

 A musician, reader, board gamer, disc golfer, woods walker, and cooking enthusiast; there is always music playing at Conan’s house, as has been the case since his teenage self found punk rock.  Subsequently he’s sought out, and been enamored by, music of all times, places, and styles.

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